Throwback: Matthew O’Brien Wins Gold At 5th Asian Schools Championships

By Matt Stevens
June 11, 2020

The year was 2002 and an Australian representative from Victoria in Matthew O’Brien would make history. Fast forward 18 years and it remains the first and last time the feat was achieved.

A year prior, in 2001, Jayde Flanagan would win Australia’s first medal at an Asian School Championship by claiming bronze in the master’s event in Thailand. The achievement would see Australia host the following championship on home soil and begin a wave of success.

The Ed Fleming Lanes in Mooroolbark, Victoria would become the stage for the most successful Australian team at an Asian School Championship. The four Australian teams (2 male, 2 female) would go on to win a total of seven medals.

O’Brien would win the ultimate event at the 5th Asian Schools Championship by being crowned masters champion. The achievement would see O’Brien become the first Australian to accomplish the feat. The gold medal would not only be the first for Australia in an Asian Schools Championship Masters event but 18 years later it stands as the only time an Aussie has won gold in the event.

This week’s throwback looks at Matthew O’Brien’s performance in the master’s event. After winning gold in the team’s event, O’Brien would qualify for the masters in 8th place with his All Events performance being a 4,022 pinfall with a 223.44 average over the 18 games. 

Through an impressive performance in the master’s event, O’Brien would make the TV stepladder final by finishing in 2nd place. His first opponent would be Aaron Kong from Malaysia. The matchup would be a tightly contested battle with the result determined by the very last delivery. The final would see him face the number one ranked bowler from Hong Kong – Wu Siu Hong. The final for gold would see bowlers compete in a two-game grand final where scores would aggregate to provide the masters champion.

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We thank Matthew O’Brien who kindly sat down with TBA to provide a quick insight on that Masters achievement and Asian championships.

How do you reflect on this time and achievement of winning gold on home soil in the masters and team events?

It was quite surreal to be honest. It was my first international event, so it was nerve racking but having the event hosted in my home state made the process a little more comfortable. It was probably the first international event for most of us and the whole scale of the event was unbelievable.

We had a strong male and female team. I remember how excited the group was when the first medals were won by our female doubles. I think they came 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and that really gave me and the boys a boost of confidence leading into the team’s event where we pretty much cleaned up. Going into the last couple of frames of teams knowing we had the gold medal in the bag was amazing.

Winning Gold in the Master’s was an incredible experience. Specially to do it in front of such a big crowd full of my family and friends, including the woman who I would end up marrying! Having it broadcast on Foxtel was a cool novelty. Also, I am still not a big fan of the pin shaped water bottle!

You are the first and only Australian to ever win Gold in the master’s event of an Asian School Championship – did you know that?

I knew it at the time but was not sure if anyone else had been able to do it since. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer.

I think my only other claim to fame in bowling was bowling the first 300 in match play at President Shield Masters (sorry Joel Lovegrove!)

Did the experience of representing your country in bowling at the Asian Championships teach you anything that you still to this day carry with you in your other parts of life?

I would say that it taught me that when you get an opportunity you should take it will both hands and have no regrets.

At president shield in 2001 the top average player received automatic selection in the team. I was the second highest average to Robert Townsend, but he was unable to compete, so I was lucky enough to be granted the spot. With so many talented bowlers at the time there was no guarantee I would have made it through roll offs, so I think I still owe Robert a beverage for that!

I know that you don’t bowl anymore – Can you let me know the reasons for this and what you do now professionally, sport wise and family?

I stopped bowling mainly due to a lower back injury unfortunately. I can’t remember if it was caused at bowling, but it definitely prevented me from competing.

Now I am a Chartered Accountant in Melbourne. Sporting wise I concentrate on playing cricket at Holy Trinity Cricket Club in Melbourne where I have played since I was 12. The last few years in cricket I have been Club Captain and have been running a cricket program for children with disabilities. Family wise, I met my wife Carly O’Brien (formally Allen who was actually coached by Cara’s Dad John Honeychurch) through bowling and a great part of the memory of Asian Schools was that she was there to see it.

Any chance of returning to the lanes in the future?

Return to the lanes…… Maybe someday if they make a 13-pound ball that can carry!

The most successful Australian Asian Schools Championships team won a total of 7 medals on home soil. The medals that were won by Australia at the 5th Asian Schools Championships:

Female Doubles

  • Kerry Ann Klop & Tracey Madden – Silver Medal
  • Toni Woodcock & Leisa Lumsden – Bronze Medal

Female Teams

  • Toni Woodcock, Clair Johnston, Jayde Flanagan, Leisa Lumsden – Silver Medal

Male Teams

  • Matthew O’Brien, Matthew Sofia, Lindsay Kilpatrick, Andrew Nobbs – Gold Medal
  • Chris Slattery, Joel Lovegrove, Glen Loader, Anthony Morrell – Silver Medal

Female Masters

  • Jayde Flanagan – Bronze Medal

Male Masters

  • Matthew O’Brien – Gold Medal

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